On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) recently announced $15 million in funding to an Australian green technology company to construct its first of a kind ‘solar hydro’ power plant comprising 4 MW of solar PV generation and 3 MW / 50 MWh (17 hours) of dispatchable storage capacity in north-west Victoria.
The tech company ‘solar hydro’ power plant consists of the firm’s proprietary PV Ultra, a concentrating photovoltaic solar co-generation tower, combined with its patented electro-thermal storage. The concentrated PV technology generates heat as a by-product which is captured and used for thermal storage.
The electro-thermal storage system consists of an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) turbine, industrial chillers and two insulated water-based thermal storage pits or reservoirs, each roughly the size of four Olympic size swimming pools. One of the reservoirs is kept at a temperature of 90 degrees and the other at close to 0 degrees, and the temperature difference is used to generate dispatchable electricity using ORC turbines.
The green tech company ‘solar hydro’ technology offers a renewable, modular and scalable solution to the emerging need for longer duration storage that has been identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator in its Integrated System Plan.
The $30 million project includes this fully dispatchable renewable energy facility as well as a new manufacturing facility that will allow the firm to prepare for forecast growth and expansion of its project pipeline in Australia. It is expected that the subsequent larger-scale projects will achieve the Low Emissions Technology Statement stretch goal of providing firmed renewables for under $100 / MWh.
The demonstration-scale facility will be located in Carwarp, Victoria near Mildura, and will export renewable electricity to the National Electricity Market (NEM). The project will participate in wholesale energy and Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS) markets once operational and is eligible for Large-scale Generation Certificates.
The company has successfully completed a capital raise for $27 million in equity from parties including AGL, Schlumberger New Energy, Photon Energy, and Chevron Technology Ventures alongside new and existing investors. The green tech firm has also negotiated an offtake agreement for the project with AGL.
The project builds on a feasibility study and development work supported by an ARENA grant of $3 million that was announced in March 2020. The ARENA CEO noted that the success of the firm’s innovative technology provides an exciting opportunity to address Australia’s emerging longer duration storage needs.
He stated that the technology has many benefits for the energy market as the energy system’s transformation continues and is driven by renewables. Much like combining pumped hydro and a traditional solar farm, the firm’s technology can provide longer duration firming for renewable energy generation. The government is particularly interested in the potential for the technology to deliver firmed renewable energy at a very competitive cost.
ARENA previously supported the company with a total of $8.67 million in funding to develop its PV Ultra technology and build the 1 MW PV Ultra pilot project in Newbridge, Victoria. The pilot project has been operational for over two years powering a local mushroom farm.
CSIRO report: renewables still cheapest new-build power in Australia
Each year CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) consult with industry stakeholders to estimate the cost to generate electricity for new power plants in Australia through their GenCost report.
This year’s report used a new, more accurate approach for analysing the cost of renewables like solar and wind, to include additional ‘integration’ costs such as storage and new transmission infrastructure, and still found solar and wind continue to be the cheapest sources of new-build electricity generation.
This report concludes that:
- Solar and wind continue to be the cheapest sources of new-build electricity.
- Battery costs fell the most in 2020-21 compared to any other generation or storage technology and are projected to continue to fall. Lower battery storage costs underpin the long-term competitiveness of renewables.
- Pumped hydro is also important and is more competitive when longer durations of storage (above eight hours) are required.
- The new approach is a model of the electricity system that optimises the amount of storage needed and also includes additional transmission expenditure.
- Previous reports added arbitrary amounts of storage costs and did not include transmission or other costs.
This report includes hydrogen electrolysers for the first time and finds that hydrogen is following a similar trajectory to more established renewables. With increased interest in global deployment and many demonstration projects worldwide, substantial cost reductions in hydrogen technologies are expected over the next decades.
Researchers at the University of South Australia have designed a digital tool to help the police, defence industry – and now child protection services – translate complex data into a visual story, saving hundreds of hours of time.
The narrative visualisation tool, developed by Dr Andrew Cunningham, Dr James Walsh, and Prof Bruce Thomas, has already allowed the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to create snapshots of crime by distilling mountains of case notes and briefs into image-based stories. The software helps prosecutors, lawyers and juries get up to speed in the courtroom so they can more easily understand complex facts, saving hours of admin and time.
Dr Walsh, a postdoctoral researcher at UniSA STEM, says the software identifies key events of a criminal case, selecting the most relevant data from case notes and presenting it in an easy-to-grasp snapshot, whilst still being able to dig into the details.
Another domain that has expressed interest is child protection. For each child coming into foster and emergency care, government departments are having to plough through years of their history. The tool can help to build a narrative of each child by identifying key dates, events, and an overall summary of their life.
The narrative combines text with images, video, scans, and voiceovers to present a snapshot that filters out the most critical information. It was noted that the tool is a marriage of computer science, statistics, graphs, artificial intelligence, artistic design and storytelling. For digital systems, the team is collecting more data, whether that’s from notes, automated sensors, spreadsheets, video, audio and even x-rays. The researchers have worked on the tool to integrate with data from different domains.
A new project with BAE Systems is also examining other narrative visualisation concepts to map the life cycles of defence machinery, tracking the operational and service histories of warships, combat vehicles and aircraft. The tool is useful wherever there is huge complexity – in logistics, transport, healthcare, and finance, for example – and need to summarise the most important elements.
“The beauty of it is that we can create specific models for each domain. For criminal cases, we can focus on pulling out information that relates to charges. For loan applications, we can identify a person’s financial history. Basically, we can rank the material to prioritise the information we care about and then present it in a visual form,” Dr Walsh says.
Dynamic graphics and interactive news stories have been part of the online media landscape for several years now, as a response to waning attention spans, the slow death of print, and a global embrace of digital media.
This trend is now spreading beyond the confines of newsrooms and becoming part of the fabric of many industries, the researchers say. The tool has been acquired by a Melbourne-based software company for commercialisation.
According to recent market research, the global data visualisation tools market is projected to grow from US$5.9 billion in 2021 to US$10.2 billion by 2026, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.6% during the forecast period.
Various factors such as the growing demand for an interactive view of data for faster business decisions and increasing developments in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to enable the interaction of companies with data in 3D formats are expected to drive the demand for data visualisation tools.
The data visualisation tools market has witnessed several advancements in terms of tools offered by the industry players. Verticals such as manufacturing, retail, and energy and utilities have witnessed a moderate slowdown, whereas BFSI, government, and healthcare and life sciences verticals have witnessed a minimal impact.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to the increased use of line charts, bar charts, and choropleth maps in the news. Simple data visualisations have become the key to communicating vital information about the coronavirus pandemic to the public.
While these terms might not be familiar to all, the visualisations themselves certainly are. One of the most interesting developments due to the current COVID-19 crisis is that organisations that excel at the developments of dashboards centralise analytics and decision-making approaches and scale them exponentially across all connected channels.
The emergence of cloud services in the digital era is progressing at an incredible pace. Businesses have begun to use cloud services to improve their operations, and other businesses will soon follow suit. A research report indicated that cloud computing is expected to account for 13% of the Philippine IT services market by 2020, driven by government agencies and SMEs.
In a country prone to national disasters, coupled with the current pandemic, and with MSMEs serving as the backbone of the economy, it only makes sense that cloud computing is a key solution to achieving not just business continuity, but a better recovery for the economy in the Philippines. Medium and SME enterprises have reiterated the importance of adopting cloud technology to minimise operational disruptions and ensure data safety amidst uncertain times for businesses in the financial services industry.
Recently experts were brought together from the central bank of the Philippines, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Business Continuity Managers Association of the Philippines (BCMAP) and other SMEs enterprise to introduce other businesses the fundamentals of building an organisation’s business continuity program and harnessing the power of cloud technology, to back up crucial data and enable swift recovery from any disaster.
The Philippines, along with the rest of the world, have fallen into recession, as mobility restrictions due to the pandemic and the lockdowns have slowed down, if not stopped, business operations. In fact, research published in Q4 of 2020 shows that 71% of MSMEs surveyed in the country were forced to halt operations, while the Department of Trade and Industry reported that an estimated 90,000 MSMEs remained closed.
The pandemic emphasised the importance of strengthening financial institutions under the supervision of the BSP in order to meet the increased demands of both customers and employees. BSP-supervised financial institutions augmented their technological capacities by migrating to cloud-based platforms and solutions, in order to address the increased digital demands of their customers and support remote work from home arrangements of their employees.
If the Philippines adopted a cloud computing model, there are numerous potential opportunities. As this cost of new technology would be shifted to service providers, IT users would no longer have to bear it. The country would be able to harness the power of the internet to democratise its access to new technology while making significant economic strides.
With cloud computing, businesses can store and access files and software, especially large ones, without necessarily buying a physical server, saving them office space and cost. Office personnel can also work from home or anywhere else other than their usual workplaces.
Businesses can continue to perform their tasks from any location and conveniently access necessary data as long as an internet connection is available. In addition, cloud tech enables employees to better manage their workflows through improved communication and team collaboration while accessing data from a centralised location. This can prevent organisations from halting operations even in challenging situations such as work suspension and calamity.
The Philippines is a country that believes in IT. Filipinos have a high interest in technology and are eager to learn new computing systems. This positive attitude gives a lot of hope to the future of cloud computing. It also helps that the country already has a talented IT workforce that is comfortable with the predominately English language that dominates the internet.
The Queensland government will invest almost $40 million in cybersecurity and digital service delivery over the next five years as the state’s COVID-19 recovery gets underway. The region’s Treasurer unveiled the state budget recently, revealing a 2021-22 deficit that is $800 million lower than what was forecast just six months ago.
However, despite the significant improvement in the bottom line, budget papers reveal only a handful of IT initiatives for a second year in the wake of the pandemic. While budget papers show that the government achieved $750 million in savings in 2020-21, there is no indication of just how much of this is down to the paused projects. The government has, however, attributed $17.7 million to a reduction in ICT contract costs over four years, including savings in telecommunications contracts.
Funding boost for cybersecurity
Of the new IT initiatives, one of the largest is an $11 million investment in “whole-of-government cybersecurity enhancements” over two years. The funding builds on the $20 million allocated to the state’s cybersecurity protection unit in 2019 over four years, effectively doubling the government-wide spend over the next two years. Cyber security-related initiatives were one of only two areas unaffected by the six-month IT project freeze last year, the other area being critical safety-related initiatives.
The budget also allocates $11.3 million for the ongoing delivery of Smart Service Queensland’s Covid-19 call centre and online services including quarantine compliance and wellness checks. A further $17.3 million, including $4.4 million in 2021-22, will go towards the completion of the digital archives program, which will enable the preservation of digital government records.
The region’s Digital Economy Minister noted that the funding for digital services would ensure “Queenslanders remain connected in the digital world”. She said that the pandemic had “highlighted the ongoing necessity for remaining connected digitally and the growing need to enhance the digital economy”.
Law enforcement upgrades
In addition to the Department of Communities, Housing and the Digital Economy, the budget allocates just under $20 million to Queensland Police across several IT-related initiatives.
More than half of the funding will be spent on general “ICT technology”, while $4 million will be used for new and replacement body-worn video (BWV) cameras. A further $4.1 million will go towards the Queensland Police’s QLiTE tablet program, including $2.7 million for the development of new apps and $1.4 million for 1000 additional devices.
Last year, the government announced it would invest $35 million over five years deploying a further 5000 QLiTE iPads and 4500 BWV cameras to frontline police officers. The force will also receive $4 million to support “information systems development” at Queensland Ambulance Service and $3.7 million to support Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
Queensland Ambulance Service has separately been allocated $5 million in 2021-22 for “information systems development” aimed at enhancing patient care and service delivery. The Department of Justice and Attorney-General will receive $7.4 million to expand and upgrade audio-visual capacity, including “video conferencing and in-custody court appearances”. The Attorney-General stated that the upgrade would “provide for the streamlining of some matters, enabling cost savings in both time and resources”.
The government is also investing $7.7 million in tranche three of the Department of Environment and Science’s government science platform over three years. The platform, which will make “data more accessible, integrated and reliable”, is expected to be used by the department to respond to environmental challenges.
The Australian Government Department of Health will use a Swedish business analytics platform’s technology to deliver data analytics capabilities in support of the Department’s reporting of COVID-19 related information to key stakeholders.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Australia, the Department of Health has been using the firm’s platform to provide health offices with a clear perspective on COVID-19 related statistics. The company’s data visualisation and analytics solutions underpin COVID-19 public announcements, pandemic incident management and COVID-19 updates on the Department of Health website.
The Department needed a rapid data solution that was external facing, easily adaptable and could support the National Incident Room to provide curated data daily, to keep the Australian public informed on the unfolding pandemic.
The company offered an end-to-end solution, allowing the Department to join many disparate datasets quickly and produce a range of reporting formats. They provided a prototype platform to the Department at the onset of the pandemic, with a live public website available shortly after to provide information to support approximately half a million hits a day.
The solutions were used across a range of areas, including COVID-19 public service announcements and an Informatic Placement — a manually constructed visual dashboard that highlighted key figures related to the spread of COVID-19. This was later updated to enable automated reporting, reducing time spent by staff in the National Incident Room to curate the information by five to six hours daily.
Pandemic Incident Management (PIM), a user-centric dashboard that was created by combining different data models and the company’s apps to create analytics for internal use was also provided.
For its work, the Australian Government Department of Health was presented with the firm’s Excellence in Healthcare Award at the company’s Australia and New Zealand Health & Public Sector Digital Transformation Awards 2021.
Australia’s COVID-19 response has been the envy of countries around the world, one article notes. Even after experiencing a second surge of cases between May and October last year, the country adapted quickly and cases have not gone beyond the 1,000 mark since.
Data dashboards have proved useful in the fight against COVID-19, specifically in the area of decision making. In the US, NYU Langone Health’s source-of-truth dataset and de-identified COVID-19 data repository enabled operational leadership to make informed decisions regarding resource allocation and strategic planning.
The Director of Industry Solutions for Healthcare and Public Sector at the company stated that Australia’s well-regarded approach to the COVID-19 pandemic can be attributed to a well-coordinated and collaborative effort across government, the healthcare sector and the private sector, which was underpinned by data-driven decision-making.
“This enabled the government to swiftly act and provide clear communication to citizens and state authorities on the rapidly changing situation to help limit the spread of COVID-19 within the community,” she said.
An earlier report notes that the Australian government is strengthening the country’s digital economy with a strong emphasis on technology, in the Australian federal budget for 2020 and 2021. Alongside investments in artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity and digital government services, Australian businesses are set to benefit from technology commitments to boost the country’s global competitiveness.
The Australian technology sector has welcomed the proposed allocations. The funding for enhancing AI capabilities, empowering organizations in how they can capitalise on digital data (for consumers, businesses, and for managing the environmental impact), and upgrading the country’s digital infrastructure readiness was particularly praised.
This includes allocating A$421.6 million over two years (and A$38.7 million in capital funding) to continue the My Health Record system and funding for the Australian Digital Health Agency, including for the Intergovernmental Agreement on National Digital Health.
In just over a year, the COVID-19 crisis has dramatically changed the way organisations in all sectors and regions do business and has fast-tracked tech adoption by years.
Beyond a doubt, to stay competitive in this new business and economic environment requires new strategies and practices. Utilising disruptive technologies to stay ahead of the curve is a foregone requirement. Not surprisingly, multiple studies show that government agencies and private sector industries have advanced the digitisation of their customer/citizen and supply-chain interactions, as well as their internal operations by three to four years.
With the accelerated change came the need for better surveillance and monitoring – in general, and on focused areas. Indeed, rapid digitalisation has changed the course of operations in terms of patrolling specific areas for any adverse incidents. In the past, keeping a check on a large area or community was tedious and challenging work for the government bodies of numerous countries. As technology advanced, the influence of digitalisation expanded exponentially. Various new technologies opened new avenues for the monitoring of these key areas.
Control rooms – View better, share faster, resolve quicker
The introduction of control rooms for crisis management is a great way to keep key target areas in check. Technologies like video walls, wireless presentation systems, video surveillance systems, network-based control systems and others help in surveying large chunks of areas seamlessly. Experts say that based on all these aspects, the control room solutions market will see significant growth across the forecast period of 2020-2030.
OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak exclusively to Jordan Heldrich, Global Segment Marketing Manager for Control Rooms at Barco to discuss how control rooms help organisations and industries both in their COVID-19 mitigation efforts as well as improving their overall business capabilities.
As a matter of perspective, a critical control room is a place where all information comes together to be analysed and interpreted, providing complete situational awareness. It is the central intelligence hub of the organisation and a vital location for operations.
Barco has over 20 years of experience in this market and offers a wide portfolio comprising overview video walls, professional-grade wall controllers, networked visualisation software, services and much more.
Jordan personally has robust experience in dealing with control rooms throughout her career. In her current role, Jordan is responsible for leading and growing Barco’s control room marketing department. She works with her team to lead the company’s commercial strategy and deliver great customer outcomes and sales growth. The global development of the control room business for Barco is also her focus.
Utilising control rooms amid the COVID-19 crisis
For Jordan, even before the pandemic, the focus on control rooms was already coming into play. COVID-19 just magnified and multiplied the need for it a thousand times more. Information became vital and urgent as safety and security were a priority.
However, with the rapid surge in information and digitalisation, control room adopters are struggling between information that is urgently needed and what is not. Multiple systems producing huge amounts of information create a major problem.
As a solution, organisations and industries have adjusted their internal operations to adapt and to fully utilise the control rooms in the new normal that are flooded with information. Jordan emphasised, “Control rooms played a big role in moving organizations from a reactive to a proactive role.”
In terms of dealing with the current pandemic, Jordan noted that governments across the globe had trouble reacting and knowing when to take immediate actions to a crisis of this magnitude. However, there is one thing prominent in the governments’ initiatives against COVID-19 – data. Having the information on hand makes it much easier for decision-makers to build plans. When agencies get real-time information constantly coming in, they can pivot easier and faster.
Jordan cited an example in the rise of healthcare operations centres which is a change for a lot of healthcare organisations whether it is hospitals or clinic. With the crisis, suddenly, control rooms were not just trying to maintain different network operations centres or security, but their whole operations overall such as the number of doctors available, patients’ journey from check in to discharge, availability of beds, oxygen, medication etc.
People needed to know these details on a minute-by-minute basis – to see which hospitals were full and which had available capacity. It was a literal life and death scenario. Control rooms helped bring all that information together to assist healthcare facilities to make decisions as well as provide real-time information to the public throughout the pandemic. Jordan shared that Barco continues to display all that information and seamlessly creating situational awareness which keeps communities smart and safe amid the ongoing crisis.
If an organisation has different programmes or systems, they do not necessarily have to be spread out over different computers. Barco allows these operators or analysts to control them from one monitor, one mouse and keep them all isolated for security if necessary.
Swift and secure content sharing beyond the control room
One thing that they have done in terms of control rooms at an operator level is starting to take that concept out of the control room itself with SecureStream. Barco’s SecureStream media streaming solution makes sharing content and video from the control room to external stakeholders (and vice versa) easy and secure. In addition to Barco’s TransForm N and CMS control room and collaboration products, SecureStream uses a very intuitive user interface. It allows control room operators to drag and drop video or data sources into a channel that can be pushed to field staff or external experts.
With the overview of available sources, control room operators can simply drag and drop content into a SecureStream channel and then provide the needed website link to the receivers. The content can be video, data, or even a customized layout of content. The remote end-user can use the web browser of his or her mobile device to view the shared content.
Jordan is excited, “Having information at different locations or not having access to all of your information can be very difficult, especially while trying to resolve a crisis. So, being able to share that real-time information using the Internet can be extremely helpful.”
See the bigger picture. Act on the details.
Jordan elaborated about Barco’s OpSpace, a single workspace consisting of several displays on the operator’s desk. It can be used for viewing, monitoring and interacting with multiple applications that reside on multiple networks with different security clearances or liability concerns. All relevant information can be accessed and manipulated within a single pixel space, with just one mouse and keyboard. In this way, the operator is at the centre of the information and has all information within easy reach.
OpSpace reduces the clutter and brings simplicity back to a user’s workflow, both on-screen and on the desk. Barco’s operator workspace solution integrates all applications into a single integrated workspace. With just one click, the user can call any application into view – reducing navigation time and greatly improving the overview of any situation. When transitioning from an old to a new application environment, OpSpace even allows the user to have both systems on the same screen, providing them the opportunity to get used to a new routine.
OpSpace is agnostic to source and network types and uses standard networking protocols. This makes adding new applications to workflows painless. Jordan said that OpSpace provides clean modernisation projects, allowing its users to easily add new and legacy systems to their workspace environment.
Barco works with organisations to make sure that all the key decision-makers have access to information that the control room provides whether it is 24/7 or just for certain projects. Depending on the organisation’s preferences and if they are willing to go that outside step to start bringing in information directly to their cell phones.
Designed with security at the heart
In terms of security, Jordan confirmed that they have put in a lot of time and effort towards securing the information gathered. She acknowledged that with the surge in digitalisation comes the associated rise in cyber threats and attacks. The world is seeing this more and Barco takes this very seriously. Barco strives to put in multi-level securities as much as possible. Jordan said, “it is a constant thing, security for us is not a one-time affair especially as new certifications and requirements emerge.”
Barco also strives to meet many necessary regulations and requirements across the world. They are consistently being tested by third-party cybersecurity entities for different vulnerabilities to make sure they a system that is up to date when it comes to security.
In closing, Jordan acknowledged that for government agencies and companies to continue to grow in the new normal, access to all the information through complete situational awareness must be in the picture and must be prioritised. She is positive that this is where the future is. Jordan concluded that with the changes brought by the pandemic, innovations that increased mobility unprecedently, situational awareness must be made accessible. More specifically via our smartphones for us to not just only churn out critical information, but also to receive the information more efficiently and effectively.
On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has recently announced up to $579,786 in funding to a global mining company to support a feasibility study investigating the potential to partially decarbonise its alumina refining operations using renewable hydrogen.
Conventional alumina refining combusts natural gas to achieve the high temperatures necessary in the calcination process. Rio Tinto will investigate the technical implications of displacing natural gas with renewable hydrogen at its Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone, Queensland. The study would inform the viability of a potential demonstration project to validate the findings.
The $1.2 million study, funded equally by ARENA and Rio Tinto, will comprise two distinct work packages:
- Simulating the calcination process using a lab-scale reactor at the mining company’s Bundoora Technical Development Centre in Melbourne, Victoria.
- Preliminary engineering and design study conducted at the mining company’s Yarwun base to understand the construction and operational requirements of a potential demonstration project at the refinery.
The study will see an improved understanding of the potential for renewable hydrogen to be used in the alumina refining process and the scope of development works required to implement hydrogen-fuelled calcination technology at an existing alumina refinery.
Australia is the world’s largest producer of bauxite and the largest exporter of alumina, accounting for 15 per cent of global alumina refining capacity. Alumina refining is an energy-intensive process that uses high-pressure steam to produce the heat required to process bauxite into alumina. Alumina can then be converted to aluminium in a smelting process.
ARENA has identified the alumina sector as a key target in its strategy to support the industry to reduce emissions due to the potential size of emissions abatement. In 2019, alumina refining accounted for over 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in Australia, which represents approximately 24 per cent of Australia’s scope 1 manufacturing emissions.
The Australian Government’s first Low Emissions Technology Statement highlights the importance of developing a low emissions steel and aluminium industry to help reduce emissions and stimulate economic activity. Innovation in metals refining can improve the competitiveness and emissions intensity of Australia’s steel and aluminium production.
Last month, ARENA announced $11.3 million in funding for Alcoa to investigate and deploy an alternative technology that uses recycled steam for process heat powered by renewable energy. The CEO of ARENA stated that the study would explore the potential for hydrogen to reduce emissions across the aluminium supply chain and would complement ARENA’s support for Alcoa’s project.
If fossil fuels can be replaced with clean hydrogen in the refining process for alumina, this will reduce emissions in the energy and emissions-intensive refining stage of the aluminium supply chain. Exploring these new clean energy technologies and methods is a crucial step towards producing green aluminium.
He also noted that the study will investigate a potential technology that can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Australian alumina industry. If successful, the technical and commercial lessons from the study could lead to the implementation of hydrogen calcination technology, not only in Australia but also internationally.
The mining company accounts for approximately a third of Australia’s total alumina production capacity. It aims to reach net-zero emissions across its operations by 2050. Across the company, it is targeting a 15 per cent reduction in absolute emissions and a 30 per cent reduction in its emissions intensity by 2030, from a 2018 baseline.
Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) is a new non-invasive molecular imaging technique that offers significantly increased tracer sensitivity over MRI and remarkably faster acquisition times than nuclear medicine, opening the door to cutting edge opportunities for interdisciplinary projects in medical research, chemistry and biotechnology.
It detects iron oxide nanoparticles to produce 2D and 3D images. MPI imaging is more sensitive and significantly faster than MRI and PET imaging.
Working synergistically together, these three technologies (MPI, MRI, PET) offer a preclinical theranostic platform that delivers exceptional image quality to detect and treat therapeutic targets.
Benefits of MPI
- The Magnetic Insight system currently offers the world’s highest sensitivity and resolution of MPI images
- Simple to operate, eliminating the need for a dedicated scanner operator and allowing researchers to acquire their own data
- Avoids the radiation burden of PET, and when used without CT removes the x-ray dose
The new technology was funded through an ARC LIEF grant with contributions from Monash University and RMIT, and combines Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) with Computed Tomography (CT) and Hyperthermia capabilities for preclinical, in vivo research.
It is located at the Monash Alfred campus and is operated by the Alfred Research Alliance-Monash Biomedical Imaging (ARA-MBI) platform.
The preclinical Momentum™ MPI system, developed by Magnetic Insight, is the world’s first MPI system with CT and Hyperthermia capabilities. The technology quantitatively detects magnetic nanoparticles anywhere in the body with exceptional sensitivity, enabling researchers the ability to track the nanoparticles in vivo, where they can bind to particular cells of interest.
Using the same in vivo living subject, the Hyperthermia technology can then define an area with pinpoint accuracy and induce localised heating in this area up to a desired therapeutic temperature designed to kill the cells that have been bound with the nanoparticles.
The capabilities can also monitor chemotherapy treatments and enhance their efficacy with the addition of targeted heating. “With just 0.01% of chemotherapy currently reaching the cancer tissue, it is so important to boost the potency of the drugs reaching the target,” said Dr Karen Alt, Head of the Nano Theranostics Laboratory at the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases, Monash University.
Associate Professor Christoph Hagemeyer, Head of the NanoBiotechnology Laboratory at the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases, Monash University said that MPI and targeted Hyperthermia are seen as the most promising new developments in the non-invasive diagnostic imaging and therapy field in decades as it combines the non-invasive nature of MRI with the sensitivity of PET, thereby unifying the best from two mainstream clinical modalities.
The ARA-MBI Platform offers preclinical researchers access to the latest imaging equipment integrating high-resolution imaging and diagnostics to inform personalised therapeutic targets. The technologies include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), MPI and Positron Emission Tomography (PET)/CT scanners.
Monash and its collaborators are world leaders in advanced nanoparticle fabrication, which is critical to MPI reaching its full potential. This is because MPI resolution and sensitivity are driven as much by the magnetic tracer’s properties as by the imaging hardware.
The facility will be used to develop specialised iron oxide nanoparticles with the highest MPI sensitivity and responsiveness, enabling new opportunities for research in critical research fields such as vaccine technology development.
An expert in Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) technology and co-founder and CEO of Magnetic Insight added that the team has been working with an Australian SME to deliver and support this ground-breaking technology.
The facility will further enhance Monash’s leadership in advanced materials science nanotechnology, molecular imaging and biosciences, the Academic Director, Research Infrastructure at Monash University said.